Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Marie Antoinette History Lesson

I'm hearing some whisper's of curiosity about Marie Antoinette, and I know how difficult it can be to find some good solid information on her, so I have a surprise for you!

Time for a short history lesson for Marie. I want to thank Cupid's Charm, a while back she had a week long celebration in which she delved into thick Marie History you can hardly find anywhere online, and took the time to edit all these beautiful photograph
s, and I'd love to share with you some of the great information she wrote about. All information and images belong to her.

When Marie Antoinette first arrived at Versailles, the most striking comments made about her were in regard to her grace, her manner of carriage and her beautiful sparkling complexion.

In an era when some bathed once a week, others every two weeks, others once or month or horror of horrors, only once a year, Marie Antoinette was a daily bather. Her mother the Empress, had taught her daughter to bathe regularly because in Austria, hygiene was considered very important.

According to Madame Campan, Marie took her baths wearing a loose-fitting flannel chemise that buttoned at the collar and cuffs. Her baths were perfumed with sachets containing a mixture of blanched almonds, pine nuts, linseed, lily and other assorted herbs. One sachet was large enough to sit on and two others were added that also included bran so that she could rub her body to exfoliate her skin. She used soaps scented with herbs or amber and she also added drops of essence of lavender or essence of lemon in her bathwater. She also placed these oils in earthenware dishes, to purify the air in her apartments. These where custom blended for her by her court perfumer, Jean-Louis Fargeon and he named these preparations Bain de modestie, in honor of her known modesty.

Her gloves were treated with a mix of sweet almond oil, white wax and eau de rose. They were then laid on a fresh bed of roses to dry. They kept her hands soft and scented and prevented chapping when she went riding. What a smart beauty treatment!

This is the atmosphere where Marie Antoinette lived from the age of 14 until she was almost 35. More than half her life was spent at Versailles and it’s fair to say that she too was seduced by the jewels that not only reflected candlelight beautifully, but also reflected her high-ranking status in court life.

Her road to Versailles started with this Blue Diamond Engagement Ring….

When she arrived at Versailles at the tender age of 14, she was presented with a magnificent jewelry collection of diamonds and pearls that were due to her as the Dauphine of France. She also received personal gifts from the King which included a fan that was encrusted with diamonds and bracelets with her MA cipher over a blue enameled clasp. The bounty of diamonds and pearls continued on her white brocade wedding dress, which had the glittering jewels stitched into the fabric. Once dressed from head to toe in her sparkling treasures, she was off to be married again… and this time, the uncomfortable 15 year old Dauphin was waiting at the alter.

These gorgeous pear-shaped diamond earrings weigh 14.25 and 20.34 carats respectively. They are now part of the Smithsonian Institutions permanent collection. These were reported to be her favorite earrings and she wore them often….and who could disagree with that! Why, these beauties would match every outfit in a girl’s closet! These beautiful earrings were taken from her during the royal family’s capture after a failed attempt to flee France during the revolution. They were later acquired by a Russian Grand Duchess and then eventually sold to Cartier in 1928, who in turn sold them to Marjorie Merriweather Post (of the Post cereal family). After her death, her daughter donated them to the Smithsonian.

Meet The Regent

This showpiece of the French Crown Jewels is called The Regent. It’s a whopping 140.50 carat stone! Be still my heart! Louis XV wore it in his crown for his coronation and then had the stone removed. Years later, Marie Antoinette came along and like any girl with an eye for sparkle, decided it would look wonderful worn on her black velvet hat. How stunning that must have looked! This treasure was stolen during the revolution and recovered 15 years later. And just to prove that royalty is not so different from the rest of us, when Napoleon ran short on cash, he pawned this gem to finance his war. Eventually it was return to the Crown Jewels of France and is now kept safe in the Louvre Museum.

And Then There's Hope
The Hope Diamond began life as a large 112.8 carat diamond. It was originally purchased by King Louis the 14th. He had the court jewelers re-cut the stone to a more pleasing shape and it was reduced in size to just over 67 carats. It was called the French Blue because of its deep color and the King wore it on a ribbon for ceremonial occasions. This stunning gem was also with Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette when they attempted to flee France during the revolution. It was taken from them and turned over to the government. This was another treasure stolen during the revolution in 1792. The diamond ended up in the collection of King George the 4th of England and after his death, it was sold to pay his debts. It was purchased by a gem collector and eventually sold to a Washington DC socialite who made a necklace out of it. After her death, it was sold to Harry Winston who then donated it to the Smithsonian, where you can see it today.

As Marie Antoinette matured, her preference for diamonds gave way to pearls. How she loved these pearls! As the revolution drew closer, she gave a bag filled with un-mounted pearls and diamonds to a dear confidant who was leaving France for England. Marie was never able to retrieve her jewelry and her friend kept them safe in her family for generations. The diamonds and pearls were eventually fashioned into a necklace, which also included rubies, for a grandchild’s wedding. This necklace came up for auction a couple of years ago but went unsold. I believe it’s now in a museum on display for everyone to enjoy.

And this is the 2nd installment of her translated revolutionary inventory of her personal jewelry! If you visit her blog, she has (I think total) 6 pages of her jewelery records!

You love flowers and I have a whole bouquet for you” with those words, King Louis XVI made his Queen, Marie Antoinette one happy girl. He then handed her this key…

…to her very own pleasure palace, the Petit Trianon.

Finally she had a place to retreat from all the pomp and ritual of court life. A place where she could create a more simple life and way of being. Although the Petit Trianon is located on the grounds of Versailles, it became another world for Marie Antoinette. At Versailles, her every gesture was scrutinized and regulated down to the smallest detail. From what she wore to what she ate, from the moment she got up in the morning until the moment she went to bed. Her daily routine took place under the watchful eyes of courtiers, ladies-in-waiting, valets, footmen, nobility who vied for her favors and encroached on her privacy. At the Petit Trianon, she could escape in privacy to live as she wished. By claiming her right for this separate and private life, she could also choose her own style.

She designed the interior to reflect her personal taste. There is a reoccurring floral motif in the furniture, fabric and porcelain used in this little jewel.

An elegant jewel-box little theater was built where the Queen could enjoy participating in amateur plays. A favorite childhood pastime that never left her.

She wanted her space to be personal and she wanted reminders of her family around her. She hung portraits of her Austrian family members in her boudoir.

It was not long after arriving that she began to put her stamp on the interiors of her rooms. Her eye for classic design and beautiful objects is legendary and even today there are design elements aptly named “Marie Antoinette Style”. When you hear that term applied, it creates an immediate visual of what that “style” looks like.

She worked closely conveying her ideas to architects, furniture makers, gardeners and various assistants who carried out her visions. Marie Antoinette had a great love for fabrics! It is known how closely she worked with Rose Bertin, her dressmaker, on selecting fabrics for her clothes, but they also worked together on fabric selections for the interiors of her rooms. Marie had a strong preference for pastel hues, sea greens & lilacs, pale pinks, soft blues & grays and she loved bouquet motifs.

All four of her children where born in this room… and etiquette required that the births be public. A child was considered the property of France and therefore, the birth had to be witnessed to be sure a switch was not made. The mob scene at the birth of Marie Antoinette’s first child, Marie-Therese, so upset her that she did everything she could to make sure that the following births would be more private (although they were still attended by the closest and highest ranking members of the royal family).

There were public meals everyday where anyone, who was dressed appropriately, could come and stare at the royals while they ate.

It’s no wonder that she became unhappy with all these rituals and public routines. Hating the demands of etiquette, she would spend as much time as possible in the “petits apartments” which were rooms hidden behind her formal bedchamber.

Only her closest confidants and family members came here.

She could also rest on the day bed or hang out with her girlfriends.

Look at the beautiful detail and cipher on her door handles! Just gorgeous!

At Versailles she enjoyed taking lessons. Her days were filled with Harpsichord, harp and singing lessons. She was said to be very talented on the harp and the harpsichord.... but not so much with the singing...

Her music instructor was the talented Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, who in his time was called "The Black Mozart". In working with Saint-Georges, Marie even composed music! The title of her composition is “C’est Mon Ami”. If you’ve seen the 2006 Marie Antoinette movie by Sofia Coppola, it's the beautiful song that Kirsten sings while performing in her theatre for Louis. I don’t know why, but this song is not included on the soundtrack from the movie, but I was able to find a copy on YouTube. I turned off the party music for today on my blog, so that you could enjoy hearing Marie's song that she composed...

This was just the most incredible post by Cupids Charm so feel free to stop by her blog and read up on some more Marie here.

Hope you enjoyed this, and if you've made it to the bottom I've matched up the swappers and will be announcing them soon, I thought about doing it now but...I want to build up the suspense!

Le Vintage


  1. Thank you for the awesome research on Marie! I have been having a ball creating Marie themed mixed media art this month. Pop on over to my blog and check out my Royal Slipper Of The Dauphin Of France made completely from paper just like the ones in the Marie publication.

  2. O, I am loving every minute of this Marie Antoinette-ing! It is superb! Thank you for taking me on this magical journey!

  3. Oh, that was a beautiful post...I enjoyed that! tfs

  4. Beautiful post....and lots of great details

  5. So much info...Wow! Thanks for sharing. The frames around the pictures made the post look so beautiful.

  6. I've been checking everyday!! I loved the post on Marie' !!! This is the best fun !!! You did get my addy didn't you? ~~~~Deborah

  7. Great post! Lots of info that I didn't know.

    I was checking out your Etsy and noticed you are from Moorpark. I am from Ventura, though now I live in Missouri.

  8. Hi! Thanks for all the info. I was wondering when you were going to send out the emails with my partners info. Thanks and have a great day!!
    ~Molly P

  9. Hi Barb, Absolutely wonderful , I'm so glad I found you
    Thanks so much for coming by my blog to enter my giveaway.
    Have a wonderful day!

  10. I really enjoyed this post filled with so much personal & enjoyable information about Marie. Thanks for sharing!!!

  11. That was a beautiful post. I interest your blog.